Legislative Council: Wednesday, October 19, 2022



World Rivers Day

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI (Leader of the Opposition) (16:56): I move:

That this council—

1. Acknowledges that World Rivers Day takes place each year on the fourth Sunday of September;

2. Notes that we will celebrate the world's waterways and reflect on the significance of rivers on 25 September this year; and

3. Recognises the many rivers of South Australia, their valuable contribution to society and the development of our state, our state's environment, and the importance of community action to protect them.

World Rivers Day is celebrated each year on the fourth Sunday of September. This year, it fell on 25 September. It is an important day on the calendar as we pause to celebrate the world's waterways. World Rivers Day highlights the many values of rivers, strives to increase public awareness and encourages the improved stewardship of rivers around the world.

Mark Angelo, an internationally celebrated river conservationist and founder of World Rivers Day, has said that 'rivers are the arteries of our planet; they are lifelines in the truest sense'. South Australians, especially those communities along the River Murray, know this to be very true. We are acutely aware of the values of rivers from an economic, environment, social and cultural point of view. The River Murray supports billions of dollars of agricultural production, supports thousands of local and statewide jobs, provides enormous recreational benefits and underpins some of Australia's best flora and fauna.

The River Murray has a special place in my heart. It is the lifeblood of my Riverland community. I know firsthand how important it is in providing the rich food and fibre that we enjoy in Australia and in keeping our river communities vibrant. I have seen the passion for the River Murray in the community volunteers who dedicate their time to help care for the river.

The former Liberal government understood the importance of the River Murray, and we were committed to protecting the river and the communities that rely on it. We recognised the value of irrigation communities to the state's economy and tourism. We were committed to delivering practical projects for farmers to improve water efficiencies on their properties as well as investing in off-farm projects such as lock and weir maintenance projects and improvements to irrigation channels to reduce water losses in the Murray-Darling Basin.

The former Liberal government was committed to supporting farmers and growers to become more efficient in their water use whilst creating business and job opportunities for other industries within their communities. Liberal governments have always been about, and will always be about, delivering practical outcomes and ensuring taxpayers' money is spent efficiently and wisely. We approved projects to return environmental water towards the 450-gigalitre target from both Victoria and New South Wales, and it was the first time ever this had happened.

We also worked hard on practical projects to improve river health in South Australia. Our Sustaining Riverland Environments Program secured $37.6 million for practical projects to improve river and wetland health and support native fish breeding and habitats. These projects are vital to enabling more effective management of flows into and around the river. These projects are critical to improving the resilience of the River Murray communities, wetlands and flood plains in South Australia.

For example, in recent years, construction of environmental infrastructure, including regulators, fishways and a blocking bank, has been completed on the Pike and Katarapko flood plains. This has improved the delivery of environmental water to improve the health and resilience of wetlands and flood plains in the Riverland region.

Whilst the largest and most important river in South Australia is the River Murray, there will be many other important waterways, including Brownhill Creek, Port Adelaide River, Cooper Creek, Light River, Warburton Creek, Patawalonga River, Strzelecki Creek, Macumba River, and the iconic River Torrens.

The former Liberal government provided funding for an ambitious vision for improving the River Torrens to make it a healthy, vibrant area in the heart of our CBD, for South Australians and visitors alike. This included committing $5 million in 2021 to wetland improvement projects. Unfortunately, these were axed under Labor and not replaced.

Thankfully, river communities, volunteers and members of the scientific community continue to give our rivers the attention they need to ensure they are healthy and productive. I would like to especially thank those volunteer groups along our rivers and waterways who are involved in a range of activities, including revegetation, bush care, sustainable farming, wetland management and various monitoring activities.

I urge everyone to take time to reflect on the significance of our rivers with respect to their valuable contribution to society and the development of our state, our state's environment, and the importance of community action to protect them.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. E.S. Bourke.